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Read part 1 of our #JourneytoHomeschool here.
I never expected to homeschool. I didn’t think it would be a good fit for us, but after the year from hell which resulted in us leaving public school, it felt like we were out of options. The local brick and mortar charter school had an annual lottery, and we didn’t get a place. We didn’t make enough to afford private school. I was going to be home with the baby, so I might as well have my kids home with me.
I started asking around about homeschooling in Pennsylvania and found out about another option. Online public charter schools; more often called cyber schools. These schools are tuition-free because your tax dollars cover them the same way they would cover a brick and mortar charter school. There are still Pennsylvania certified teachers that teach lessons and the parents works more as a facilitator.
With very little additional research, we signed up with PA Cyber, the online school several of my friends were using.
The First 6 Weeks
In August, our supplies and curriculum for PA Cyber began to arrive. Laptops for each child, a printer for the household, workbooks, art supplies, physical education kits, books, math kits, science kits. It felt like Christmas! I was excited to get organized and start the school year.
Our first day of school was rough. There were numerous technical issues, and issues with my login. I spent most of the day on the phone with tech support and our counselor. The second day of school wasn’t much better. Over the next 6 weeks, we would spend hours on the phone with tech support trying to figure out why our videos wouldn’t play, and why we couldn’t access the lessons properly. I’d spend countless hours attempting to communicate with the counselor and teacher to find workarounds for things that should have just worked.
I was frustrated. The kids weren’t enjoying school. I was afraid I’d burn out before Halloween. Something had to give.
It was a beautiful fall morning at the farmers’ market when this couple came to sign their children up for the pumpkin decorating contest. The mom and I instantly hit it off and began talking about our children, about Girl Scouts, and about school. I commented that I homeschooled. So did she. I said that we used a cyber school. So did she. I told her we used PA Cyber, and that’s when she told me about CCA.
There was another option!
Nicole and I chatted for a while and I picked her brain about CCA. I asked her girls what they thought of the school, and they told me about all of the cool trips that they get to go on and how they talk with their teachers every other week. It all sounded too good to be true.
I went home and researched CCA, and every other cyber charter school that was accredited in the state of Pennsylvania. I joined Facebook groups for the school and asked numerous questions about everything from attendance to communication, from technology to textbooks.
On Monday, I sent Nicole a friend request on Facebook and then pm’d her a laundry list of questions about CCA. I didn’t want to make the wrong choice again. Steve and I discussed CCA and the research I had done, and we both felt confident that this would be a better fit for us than PA Cyber.
Making the Switch
We began the process to unenroll in PA Cyber, and no one at the school seemed surprised by our choice. We sent back the laptops and closed that chapter. While we closed out our time with PA Cyber, we enrolled in CCA and started the orientation process. We had a new supply delivery to go with our new school. A fresh round of laptops, textbooks, and supplies arrived, and within days my children were attending live lessons and participating in classes.
There were no technical issues. We had open lines of communication with both the kindergarten and first-grade teachers. My children were attending lessons. Our family was participating in field trips and outreach opportunities. As I spoke with more CCA families, I found out that we were not alone in making the switch from one cyber school to another. A lot of people were unhappy with other options and chose to enroll in CCA.
The Next 3 Years
My children were first enrolled in CCA in early November 2014 when they were in kindergarten and first-grade. Over the next 3 years, we had absolutely amazing teachers. The children attended math and language arts live lessons with their teacher and classmates from all over the state, and I taught the science and social studies content. From time to time they struggled, and in those instances, we would reach out to the teachers and get the additional help and support we needed so the children could be successful.
Through CCA, my children visited the US Mint in Philadelphia, participated in a pollination and native plants workshop at Longwood Gardens, met other local students at Skyzone, learned PA history by visiting Valley Forge and Pennsbury Manor. We even got to meet their teachers in person on field trips, at kindergarten graduation, and when we stopped by the Harrisburg office.
We felt like part of the family and we loved CCA. I still do. But this past November, it was time to leave.
To be continued …